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Photo: Shutterstock.com / Yaw Niel

DigiFI Blog Series: Deepening Our Understanding of the Digital ID and Payment Research Agenda

– J-PAL

How mobile money and digital ID authentications help facilitate payments in response to COVID-19

Following the rapid growth of internet access and mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money and biometric digital ID authentication have soared in expediting payments for various social protection programs. Many governments have now invested in new ways of digitizing financial services and identification systems, especially as a response to COVID-19.

"Digital IDs present a groundbreaking opportunity to overcome many of the problems of identification faced by African countries and their citizens. For instance, biometric ID systems may make it easier to implement and effectively target government programs, while enabling citizens to participate in the economy since biometric data can serve as a universally valid proof of identification."

Digital ID systems also help to overcome key barriers to effective public service delivery through improved targeting, reduced leakages and fraud prevention, enhancing social protection programs, and ensuring better access to high-valuable data for monitoring systems. Digital technologies also help create a more gender-equal society by granting women the power to have asset control over their funds and income.

Results from a 2016 study in Niger found that paying the transfer directly into the mobile wallets of women, as opposed to providing them cash, affected the distribution of intra-household bargaining power. More specifically, by making it more difficult for their spouse to observe the arrival of the transfer, digital social transfer programs provided women with more decision making power around how the transfer is spent

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